Calan Star Bethan Helps Welsh School-Children Put Together Festive Hit : Diolch I Chi Gyd

A class of Welsh nine and ten-year-olds are aiming to be Christmas 2020 download favourites with the help of local folk-rock star Bethan Rhiannon, lead singer with festival giants Calan.

With Calan’s live gigs paused by Covid-19, Bethan – a trained teacher – has temporarily joined the staff at Ysgol Bryn Onnen in Varteg (near Pontypool). And with the school’s Christmas concert cancelled, ‘Miss Williams-Jones’’ lesson was straight out of School Of Rock…. ‘Why don’t you all write a Christmas single guys?!’.

And what they produced was not just any song, but a thankyou in Welsh to all the frontline local heroes who continue to lead the fight against the Coronavirus.

Bethan Rhiannon (centre) with Calan Photo: Richard P Walton

Diolch I Chi Gyd

It’s called Diolch I Chi Gyd and, in translation, the chorus says; “Things have changed, but we’ll all be together again sometime. So until then, thanks to you all for everything.”

“The children really did write it themselves,” said Bethan, more used to playing to thousands than the slightly more daunting prospect of living up to the expectations of classes of children.

She added, “I’m used to writing songs with Calan and running songwriting workshops as an artist in schools, so each class had one workshop day where I showed them how to write lyrics and how to rhyme if they wanted to. Then everyone had a turn to suggest a line and a tune. All the words and tunes were written by the children themselves, just by singing whatever came out in the moment! I simply put some chords and drums behind their tunes and lyrics. Each class had its own song.”

Bethan, out in the cold with recording equipment, ready to capture the schoolchildren of Ysgol Bryn Onnen voices for posterity. Photo: Huw Williams

School-Children Record Song Outdoors

The local Council had to be sensible and fair so, with the children’s safety of the utmost importance, when Bethan first had the idea she was told, “Sorry. Singing indoors is not allowed”.

Undeterred, the children decided nothing would stop them. Going through several options, and after getting permission from both the local Council and their school headteacher, each day Bethan took a different class outside to the park where they would sing their songs in smaller groups out in the fresh air.

“They had to stand out in the cold no matter what the weather, as we were running out of time,” Bethan explained. “We managed to record every class and every song just in time, even when snow was forecast. You can even hear some of them playing on the swings in the background. We went through packs and packs of wipes and hand sanitizer!”

The results speak for themselves. And, after much soul-searching, Bethan decided to move forward with Year 5’s ‘Diolch I Chi Gyd’.

“There are lots of children whose parents work within the NHS, or are key workers,” she added. “In parts of the song, you can hear children speaking and thanking the people they are most grateful to this year. One girl thanks her Mam for working as a nurse. It brings tears to your eyes.”

Where to Download Diolch I Chi Gyd

The song will be available to download from Monday 14th December via iTunes, Spotify and Amazon, with all proceeds going to Eastern Valley Foodbank in Pontnewynydd.

Bethan, whose songs on Calan’s latest album ‘Kistvaen’ are instant folk-rock classics, smiled, “I think it’s pretty much assured that ‘Diolch I Chi Gyd’ will be the most downloaded song in Varteg! There won’t be any speak of Calan’s new album this Christmas! But it should strike a chord with Welsh speakers everywhere and it’d be lovely to see it up there with the most downloaded Welsh Christmas songs this year.

“One thing’s certain…the children already think they’re famous. They’re even asking each other for autographs!”

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